How is Social Media changing the English language?

15th September 2014

All languages change, English included!

English has changed so much over time that speakers in 1500 AD would not have understood an English speaker from 500 AD or the English spoken today.

Social media seems to be one of the biggest growing influencers on the English language. A few years ago, no one would have heard of unfriend or selfie. The words that surround us every day that we read in papers, online or on social media are the words we either use or will eventually start using.

The introduction of new words, new meanings for old words and changes in the way we communicate show the importance of social media and the stamp it’s making on the English language.

Most of us will have heard of acronyms such as LOL (laugh out loud), LMAO (laughing my a#! off) and BRB (be right back). These, together with emoticons, add useful elements to non-verbal communication and express one’s feelings in a fashionable (or cool) and simple way. Simple if you can understand them!

Hashtags (# clickable words used to categorise tweets) are no longer limited to Twitter, but now used on Facebook, Instagram, and even the BBC, and are also known for searchable words; for example, if you search for #englishlanguage on Google you will find various conversations associated with the English language.

Facebook has also done more than most platforms to offer up new meanings for common words such as friend, like, status, wall, page, and profile.

Social media is making it easier than ever to contribute to the evolution of language. Several words are being added to the Oxford English Dictionary all the time with a large proportion of them coming from the various social media platforms.

Here are some of the latest words added to the Oxford English Dictionary:

* air punch (an act of thrusting one’s clenched fist up into the air, typically as a gesture of triumph or elation)

* bro hug (man hug)

* baller (impressive)

* cray ( crazy)

* throw shade (publicly criticise or express contempt for someone)

* amazeballs (amazing)

* YOLO (you only live once)

* spit take (an act of suddenly spitting out liquid one is drinking in response to something funny or surprising)

* binge watch (watch multiple episodes of something like a TV programme in one sitting)

* live tweet (post comments about ‘an event’ on Twitter while the actual event is taking place)

* tech-savvy (proficient in the use of modern technology)

Some people feel left behind by all this, especially people who don’t use social media. You may be reluctant to learning all the new words but the truth is that social media is great for word nerds. It provides a rich playground for experimenting with, development of and subverting the language.

It is also a great way to keep up with these language changes. Pay attention to discussions in your social networks and you can spot emerging new words, new uses of words and maybe even invent one yourself!

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